The Curious Silence of the Dog and Paul of Tarsus; Revisiting The Argument from Silence

Michael Gary Duncan


In this essay I propose an interpretative and explanatory structure for the so-called argumentum ex silento, or argument from silence (henceforth referred to as the AFS). To this end, I explore two examples, namely, Sherlock Holmes’s oft-quoted notice of the “curious incident of the dog in the night-time” from Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “Silver Blaze,” and the historical question of Paul of Tarsus’s silence on biographical details of the historical Jesus. Through these cases, I conclude that the AFS serves as a dialogical topos best evaluated and understood through the perceived authority of the arguer and the willingness of the audience to accept that authority, due to the “curious” nature of the negative evidence that the argument employed.


argument from silence, fallacy, rhetoric, dialectic, authority, expertise, acceptibility

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ISSN: 0824-2577